Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Volume

One of the salient architectural features of my French house is that it has very few internal doors.

This is fine if all you want to do is swan from room to room remarking on the pretty patterns made by the mildew or marvelling at the delicate festoons of cobwebs. But when you're trying to work at the dining room table, and the dining room is actually more of a cupboard off the sitting room, and the sitting room is where your mum spends the day watching television, then things become slightly more vexing.

Far be it from me to speculate on the efficacy of my mum's hearing, so let's just say that mum likes the television to provide her with a rich cinematic experience. There's nothing about Hetty Wainthropp Investigates or Keeping Up Appearances that can't be improved by cranking up the Dolby surround sound to plaster-loosening levels, for example.

Today, however, mum decided she'd had enough of Patricia Routledge's various incarnations and started watching her Lord of the Rings DVD box set instead. As I was trying to write an article about European economic competitiveness, this gave me no choice but to put on my headphones and attempt to drown out the hobbitses by subjecting myself to the complete works of doomed Oregonian junkie Elliott Smith at an inadvisably loud volume.

Under the circumstances, it's a wonder I even heard my phone ringing, but I did, which is how the following scene unfolded:

Mobile phone rings. I yank off my earphones and am instantly felled by a tidal wave of orchestral music as the LOTR theme swells and booms around me.

Me: (answering phone) Hello, Patroclus speaking.

Client: Oh, hello, it's your client here. I was wondering if you had a few minutes to go over something with me?

The LOTR theme rattles the windows and light fittings with nuclear intensity.

Me: Oh, yes, sure. Of course.

Client: Are you sure? You sound, er, busy.

Me: No, no, I'm fine, I'll just move into the...hang on...

I move three feet to the right, into the kitchen. The volume abates by a fraction of a decibel. I pray for a contemplative scene in which Frodo stares into the middle distance with a troubled look on his face. Unfortunately, the music continues to swell. Then swords start to clash, and dwarves and Men start yelling about dark things and rings of power.

Client: Have you got the document open in front of you?

I haven't. I've left my laptop in the dining room. I'm going to have to go back in there and fetch it. I wait for a lull in the proceedings and make a dash for it, phone cradled to my ear.

Me: Right, yes, just opening it now...

From the sitting room, a booming voice intones 'ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY WALK INTO MORDOR.'

Client: Are you in an airport?

Me: Not exactly.

I hastily unplug the laptop from its various shackles and run back with it into the kitchen. Unfortunately, it turns out that one of the things I unplugged was the earphones. Now Elliott Smith is blaring out of the speakers at an inadvisably loud volume.

Elliott: NO BAD DREAM FUCKER'S GOING TO BOSS ME AROUND

Client: Should I ring back later?

Me: Yes, I think that might be best, actually.

24 comments:

Spinsterella said...

You know Elliott's girlfriend actually stabbed him to death?

(It was on the internets (smokinggun) so it must be true.)

Anyhow - I have a very similar experience, 'cept with Holby Fucking City, flatmate, and much less lucrative work.

My sympathies.

patroclus said...

It does seem that way - you'd have to be quite hard to stab yourself repeatedly in the chest.

I'd almost rather it was Holby City, I could have pretended I was at the hospital. It's quite difficult to explain away the noise of massive pitched battles with orcs and balrogs and whatnot.

Mangonel said...

Yikes, mothers and TV sound levels . . .

In addition, mine maintains stoutly that she doesn't need lightbulbs any stronger than - ooh, say 6 watts. At least the volume on Holby City (for it is it) drowns the sound of my swearing when I bark my shin on the coffee table. Again. And walk into the loo door because I can't see whether it is open or closed. And crack my knuckles against the key which shouldn't be in that lock. And black my eye on the . . .get the picture? I don't, because its TOO FUCKING DARK.

Valerie said...

I guess you couldn't have passed it off as Critical Media Research...

Or, "Sorry, I'm on a party line. I think the orcs next door are having a party..."

Best to just pretend it's not happening. "Are you hearing something odd on the line? Because it's quiet as tombs here... must be crosstalk. Maybe you should call your provider."

Smat said...

how about mother+headphones=peace to work?

james henry said...

Good use of 'salient'.

And 'orc' obviously.

Tim Footman said...

Hang on...

"Are you in an airport?"

Bloody odd airport, by the sound of it.

kalista said...

My grandma cannot hear female voices due to the pitch apparently. I get an awful lot of "you what dear?" when I ring her up, the strains of the Emmerdale theme tune blaring at top volume from her end of the line.

Wyndham said...

Your mother is obviously a closet fan of Domic "Lost" Monaghan who started off as Hetty Wainthrop's sidekick and then end up as one of them little fellers in Lord Of The Rings.

I'm sorry, how sad is that?

patroclus said...

Mangonel: Get one of those miners' lamps - it's the only way.

Valerie: It has been suggested that I should have told my client I'd set up an office inside World of Warcraft, which made me laugh a lot.

Tim: In the world of business, 'are you in an airport?' is simply code for 'your background noise is making this call difficult - please move to a quieter location so that we may discuss key messages and rubber-hits-the-road initiatives unimpeded'.

Smat: If I could persuade my mum to wear headphones I would. But there's also something strangely comforting about having Cash In The Attic blaring away in the background. Not sure what it is, though.

Kalista: My grandmother swears her radio 'works better' on batteries than when connected to the mains. This is because when it's on batteries, she can prop it right against her ear, 1980s ghetto-blaster style.

Wyndham: I have to confess that this fact had not escaped my attention either.

kalista said...

Ah ghetto gran!

baggiebird said...

My dad has trouble hearing women's voices aswell. Although he does have hearing aids which he never wears, so not only do I have to turn the TV down from a volume that makes you ears bleed, I also have to repeat myself 16 times before he catches what i've said... it gets annoying

Anonymous said...

My mother insists on watching her programmes very loud and then promptly falls asleep. She does however hear anyone sidling towards the remote and wakes instantly if you try to change the channel. Vexing indeed. She would find LOTR very confusing.

Spinsterella said...

Oh Mangonel - my Mother is the direct opposite.

Every bulb in my parents' house is at least 150 watt, even in the bedside lamps. it's like visiting a pathology lab.

On of the lamps lives ON TOP OF THE TELLY!

Mad.

Albert said...

I'm sorry, dear, I can't hear you. I'M QUITE DEAF YOU KNOW.

patroclus said...

Baggiebird: My esteemed colleague LC would have a field day with a statement like 'my dad has trouble hearing women's voices'. I think I might have said this before, but it's odd how the only Baggies fans I know are women or monkeys - there's POE, and there's the lovely L, and there's you, and there's Baby Lumps.

Realdoc: My mum is a lifelong Tolkien fan, and indeed there are numerous farmers' children (grown up now) in the far north of Scotland who would probably never have read a book in their lives if my mum hadn't got them to read The Hobbit, draw maps of Middle Earth, make pop-up eagles etc. when she was their primary teacher.

Spin: 'Like visiting a pathology lab' made me laugh. (Ooh, is it wee?)

Albert: Do you eat much cream, dear? No, neither do I.

Smat said...

Spinsterella, my parents are the same - on their Annual Inspection Visit (yes, it does deserve capitals!) they complained because lots of my lightbulbs were "only" 80 watts - lord knows where they came from because nowhere sells 80 watt bulbs, but I had them and was using them up, except "you really need a proper light in here, shall I buy you some lightbulbs when I'm out?" as if I'm incapable of buying lightbulbs, I'll buy some when I need them, I've a plentiful supply in the cupboard......
....and breathe....... they've gone home now and I can screen calls on the answerphone...

patroclus said...

Smat: Can I borrow your (lovely) parents? I *am* incapable of buying lightbulbs, and the last one has just blown in the kitchen...hm...what to do...

baggiebird said...

Oh Baby Lumps is a very cool little monkey

Mangonel said...

If Patroclus is borrowing Smat's parents, may I poach Spinsterella's? Perhaps we can come to some sort of lend-lease arrangement?

patroclus said...

Oo, Mangonel, quick - set up parent-swap.com, it could be the new eBay!

Tamburlaine said...

I'm sorry, but was I alone in finding your post hilarious? Sorry for laughing at your misfortunes, though.

patroclus said...

Not at all Tamburlaine, it was supposed to be funny. I'm very glad someone other than me found it amusing.

It's probably a good thing I didn't persevere with that sitcom I was writing, mind.

BiB said...

No, carry on with the sitcom. I also found this hilarious, and laughed out loud, which I will NEVER abbreviate to Those Three Letters.